“For if I preach the Gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16 ESV)
The apostle Paul leads into this verse sounding a bit disgruntled. He (and Barnabas) are doing the Lord’s work—serving others, teaching them about Jesus, conscientiously working among the Corinthians so as not to be a cause for their stumbling—or grumbling. Yet, still they’re encountering some resistance from those they’re helping and, as a result, they’re having to provide for their own needs—even as they’re serving others.
Ministering under the critical eye of others, Paul puts forth his position to those who are questioning his ministry methods: “This is my defense to those who would examine me. Do we not have the right to eat and drink? Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk? … If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?” (1 Corinthians 9:3-7, 11 ESV).
Paul knew his “rights” as a Christ-worker—how those who do such work should be able to draw sustenance and shelter for their work. “But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting” (1 Corinthians 9:15 ESV).
Paul knew that the very fact he was sharing Jesus with others was reward enough—regardless of how the Gospel was received. Remember, Paul came from a religious mindset where the thought of telling others about Jesus would have been the most outrageous, most preposterous thing he could have ever had imagined himself doing.
But God had won his heart, and here he was: sharing the love of Jesus, telling others how the Heavenly Father had fulfilled all His promises in the life, death, and sin-crushing resurrection of His Son, the Messiah. Paul knew that whatever push-back he received from those he served (in Corinth or elsewhere) was a small hassle indeed compared to what God did to save mankind. Going forward, Paul was compelled to preach the Gospel. It was his necessary duty. And to do so, he endured all sorts of hardships along the way.
Paul’s singular mission was to share God’s mercy with others. “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the Gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings” (1 Corinthians 9:22b-23).
Prayer: Heavenly Father, empower us to share Your Son with others, always thankful for the honor to do so. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Paul Schreiber.
1. Have you ever had to do something significant (and possibly costly) for someone with little thought to what it cost you?
2. Do you think Paul was proud to share the Gospel with others?
3. How can we become cheerful and giving in our Christian service without feeling used or unappreciated?